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The Blessing of Tempests, Pickles, Gratitude and Reality

Happy Planet 2
Happy Planet 1
Creative Commons License photo credit: Patrick Doheny
What does your reality look like today?

I’d like to claim that Ellie and I started this week intending to examine the nature of reality, but it just turned out that way.  The more I think about “reality”, the more I understand that we choose our reality.

On Wednesday, the day I posted Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, one of the articles on the front page of the Washington Post was Foreclosure Rates Rise 17%.  Timing being everything, I thought, “Oh crap! Of all the times to post an article about gratitude!!!”  And yet, what difference does that statistic make to me or you?  Even if you’re one of the people currently struggling with what to do with your mortgage, this statistic doesn’t change anything for you – it simply puts a sharper point on something that’s already way too real for you.  If you’re not one of those facing foreclosure, aside from activating your empathy (more on that in a future post), it doesn’t change anything for you either.  It’s a number.  And it’s a record, not a prediction.

In My Stroke of Insight , Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor explains that our left brain was designed to create meaning out of whatever data is presented to it.  This means that when we are presented with information like that in the Washington Post on Wednesday, our left brain creates a story which fits us into that data.  Even if it doesn’t directly affect us, our left brain graciously creates an explanation which includes us.  If we allow it to take control, our left brain can take us from OK to terrified in less than 60 seconds.  If it were a car, it would be all the rage.

When Ellie is talking about ABCDE or state-shifting in Out of a Pickle, Into a Pastiche she is basically saying the same thing.  When any of us are in the dumper, it is partially because our linear left brain has taken a perfectly OK thought, ”I made a mistake here,” to its illogical conclusion, “I NEVER do anything right.”  During the last couple of weeks, we’ve given you some techniques for moving back towards a possibilities view of your life.  First, you must be paying attention to what you are saying to yourself and make sure it’s something that can help, not hurt you.  As Elizabeth Scott, M.S. says in Reduce Stress and Improve You Life with Positive Self-Talk, “the first step is to notice your patterns.  You probably don’t realize how often you say negative things in your head, or how much it affects your experience.”

Once you become aware, then you can try something different.  In The Blessing of Reality, I talked about one particularly challenging writing day which had left me in the dumper.  By changing the scenery, I was able to move into a better place AND find something to write about.  The technique I used helped me feel better and was very different from Ellie’s ABCDE.  It wasn’t that I thought that I’d NEVER be able to write anything useful again.  I was just extremely frustrated.  I reached a point where I figured I couldn’t be any worse off by taking the walk and it turned out that I was actually in a better place when I returned to my task.  As Ellie had suggested, I shifted my state (a little like shape-shifting, just for your emotions), and was able to find a new place from which to move forward.

When we go to this new place, our view of the world is different.  Our perspective is different, just like Ellie’s perspective changed in Tempest In a Teacup – It’s All About Perspective.  She used a distancing technique to reduce the emotional drag of a situation that was getting her down.

In last week’s Parade Magazine, Mitch Albom, author of Tuesday’s with Morrie wrote an article about Finding the Silver Lining in Detroit.  To write this article, he hung out at a church/homeless ministry.  His conclusion:

What we’re learning in Detroit is that when everything falls down, we still have one another. So before winter comes, we aim to fix that hole in Covington’s roof, to shut out the rain and snow. We’ll do it, because this is how our gritty old city—and how America—will get out of this mess, by having a little faith in our beliefs and in each other, and by showing it, one extended hand at a time.

If all we do is watch the news or read the paper, America may seem like a cold, hard, place with Facebook polls on obscene questions like whether President Obama should be assassinated and with politicians more concerned about keeping their jobs than working together to solve problems.  From Albom’s perspective, down on the streets, where it counts, “still, there is hope.”

So how do we keep ourselves on an even keel?  How do we not let bad news ruin our days?  One way is to have easy access to the kind of humor that makes us laugh like this Baby Blues bit of wisdom.  Another is to balance the news with inspiration – 21 Ways to be Inspired.

Whatever you choose, remember it’s your reality, choose it wisely.

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Cup o’ Inspiration

cup with steam swirl

Take a short break and consider the following:

“There are no facts, only interpretations.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

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